President Donald Trump on Friday invoked extraordinary national security powers to deny asylum to migrants who enter the country illegally, tightening the border as caravans of Central Americans slowly approach the United States.
Thanks to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, asylum rules were reformed to prevent migrants from receiving asylum by claiming they are fleeing violence, gangs, or domestic abuse.
But according to the new rule, Trump has authority to restrict illegal immigration "if he determines it to be in the national interest". Rights groups have called the move "illegal". However, Trump's focus on the issue during campaigning for Tuesday's hotly contested midterm congressional elections was criticized as veering into immigrant-bashing and even racism.
Under worldwide and federal law, Trump is required to grant asylum to anyone who credibly claims to have left a unsafe home country in order to come to the USA, regardless of where the asylum seeker enters the country.
But directing the migrants to the official ports could create massive backups among applicants on the Mexican side of the border.
What is the new rule?
"Today, we are using the authority granted to us by Congress to bar aliens who violate a Presidential suspension of entry or other restriction from asylum eligibility", they explained.
The White House has yet to release more expansive information about to whom the rule would apply. President Trump is expected to sign it shortly.
"These restrictions are illegal - asylum is a legal right regardless of how someone enters the country", RAICES, an immigrant legal services organisation in Texas, said in a statement.
"U.S. law specifically allows individuals to apply for asylum whether or not they are at a port of entry". Rights groups call rules unconstitutional and a violation of global law. This policy needlessly places the lives of thousands of people in danger.
"The narrative that people seeking refuge are a security threat is a manufactured crisis by the Trump administration rooted in the politics of hate and fear".
In June, the president signed an executive order promising to "keep families together" in migrant detentions, after undocumented parents and children were separated at the border.
Any executive order ending birthright citizenship would likely provoke a Constitutional debate and be challenged in the Supreme Court, as birthright citizenship is now guaranteed under the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution.
The administration has also looked to end protections under programs in which tens of thousands of people from Honduras and El Salvador, who entered the country after hurricanes and earthquakes devastated their countries near the beginning of the century.